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Q: Military exercises in the 1950's - 1960's ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: Military exercises in the 1950's - 1960's
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: maggie22043-ga
List Price: $75.00
Posted: 02 Jun 2004 06:27 PDT
Expires: 02 Jul 2004 06:27 PDT
Question ID: 355262
I would like any available information on an Army exercise conducted
in Danville Virginia in either the late 50's or early 60's.  The
exercise involved the town being "captured" by foreign forces and then
"liberated" by US forces.  Would particularly be interested in how to
access any photos or souvenirs (posters, handbills, etc.)

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 02 Jun 2004 07:57 PDT
Hello Maggie,

I've found a number of newspaper articles that describe the "capture"
of Danvill in some detail.

I cannot reproduce the articles here, due to copyright, but I can
certainly summarize them as an answer to your question, and give you
instructions about accessing the full articles yourself (they are all
available online).

As for posters, handbills and the like, I have looked over a few
military history sites, but have not found any relevant materials.  It
looks like the newspaper articles may be the only available
information.  Would that do as an answer to your question?

Let me know.


Clarification of Question by maggie22043-ga on 02 Jun 2004 09:36 PDT
Dear Pafalafa:

   Detailed summaries and sources would be great.  I'm assuming they
reference the specific military units involved which means I could
probably track down more info via unit organizations.

   Most of the "capture" info related to Danville refers to its
capture during the Civil War.  Kudos to you for finding this.

Subject: Re: Military exercises in the 1950's - 1960's
Answered By: pafalafa-ga on 02 Jun 2004 13:21 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars

This was fun!

The invasion of Danville -- along with its subsequent, heroic, noisy
liberation -- occurred late in the year in 1959.  The action was
picked up by a fair number of newspapers that have online archives. 
However, many of the articles are nearly identical, since they were
taken off the AP feed.  I've included summaries of all the
non-duplicate articles below, along with information about how to
access the full articles yourself.

Before rating this answer, please let me know if you have any
questions, or need any more information.  Just post a Reqeust for
Clarification, and I'll be happy to assist you further.



The archives of the Washington Post are available online at:

Searching on [ danville army dragon ] will take you to results that
include the following article -- you can access the full article (for
a modest fee) by following the sign-on instructions at the archives


Danville, Va., Is 'Captured' by Invaders In Realistic 'Dragon Head'
Exercise: Mayor Eludes Foe
The Washington Post
Nov 3, 1959.  pg. A12

"Danville, Va., Nov. 2 (AP)  This city was quiet tonight under a
"curfew" and "martial law" as the "Ridgeland People's Army" assumed
"control" in an Army exercise."

[As I mentioned earlier, I can't quote much more from the article due
to copyright, but here is a summary]...

Other pertinent information from this article:

--The exercise was known as "Operation Danville" and was part of the
Strategic Army Corps' exercise dubbed Dragon Head.

--Dragon Head involved areas in southern Virginia, as well as parts of
both North and South Carolina.

--The invading army's flag was a green triangle on a field of white,
and their uniforms were green and red.

--The Ridgeland People's Army consisted of 250 officers and men, and
included a patrol of several jeeps which invaded Danville in early

--The 17th Cavalry of the 82nd Airborne played the role of the
aggressors, with "surprising realism".

--It took them only two hours to secure the town, invading city hall,
arresting key officials, and hastening to "wipe out" small pockets of
armed resistance.

--The town mayor, Julian Stinson, eluded capture until almost noon.  

--An outpost of the good guys was established near the Sears Roebuck,
but they were quickly captured by the invaders.

--Captured prisoners (including town officials) were kept at a POW
camp and fed army rations.

--Oddly enough, the invaders had something of a Middle East bent --
their proclamations were signed by the general of the RPA, "Aziz

--A plane circled the battlefield and dropped leaflets proclaiming
that help was on the way, and that citizens should offer asssitance to
friendly forces when they arrive.

--The liberation of the town was scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 3, when
350 men from the 82nd Airborne were due to parachute into the town,
fight and win a pitched battle.


Another site, called, has numerous reports of the
Danville invasion, but all the articles are from the AP feed, so I've
included only one example here.  You can access the site at:

and a search for [ danville "dragon head" ] will lead you to the
articles themselves (which, again, are available for a small fee after
signing on to the service)

Stevens Point (Wisconsin) Daily Journal
Tuesday, Nov 3, 1959

City In Virginia Awatis Liberation From Aggressors

"Danville, Va. (AP) -- This tobacco center, which has a taste of how
it feels to be invaded by unfriendly troops, gets liberated today."

The article goes on to say:

--the exercise is designed to test the Army's ability to fight a
"brush fire action".

--Dragon Head has been "in progress on paper" for more than six weeks.

--Troops have actually been in the field for over a week.


The NY Times carried two articles on the invasion, which can be
obtained from their archive site, operates very much like the
Washington Post archive site.  You can find it at:

Note that the first article differs from the earlier articles in terms
of the number of invading troops.

Danville, Va., Seized in War Games
Nov 3, 1959, page 5

[The article includes a picture of the Mayor and other townsfolk
dining on C rations in their barbed-wire POW camp]

"Seven-hundred troops of an "aggressor" army occupied Danville today
as part of maneuvers designed to display the versatility of the
Strategic Army Corps".

--the invasion included the "chatter of machine guns" and the "jar of smoke bombs".


The following day, the Times ran a follow-up article:

TROOPS 'LIBERATE' CITY:Chutists Oust Aggressors From Danville, Va. 

Nov 4, 1959.  pg. 4

"This city was liberated today after having been in the hands of an
imaginary aggressor since yesterday morning".

--280 parachutists landed to the east of town

--the liberating army established HQ at the local airport

--machine gun and rifle fire brought the town's business to a
standstill during the climactic battle for city hall


I hope provides the flavor of this long-ago invasion, and gives you
the information you need to pursue your research, if you choose.

As I said above, if there are any questions, just let me know, and I'm
at your service.



Request for Answer Clarification by maggie22043-ga on 02 Jun 2004 15:35 PDT
It was fun reading about this again after so many years.

The only question I have is regarding the military angle.  You said
you'd checked military history sites. Were these private or "official"

This may be outside your scope, but do you know if I wrote directly to
the 82nd Airborne it might produce any additional information?  Are
you aware of any other military resources I might be able to access as
a private citizen?

Clarification of Answer by pafalafa-ga on 02 Jun 2004 16:20 PDT
Hello again, Maggie.

Nice to hear that you enjoyed this stroll down memory lane.  I'd love
to hear about your involvement with Dragon Head, if you'd care to tell

As for your follow-up information:

The military sites I checked were all sites belonging to the US Army
and specializing in historical documents.  They are:


The U.S. Army Center of Military History 

which can be searched here:

U.S. Army Military History Institute

[NOTE:  their site says they will be down for part of the week this
week for maintenance, so you may have to wait a bit to access the

You can email the Military Institute with questions through the form at their site:


I also checked the homepage of the 82nd Airborne:

Although I didn't see any information about the invasion of Danville,
I did come across the page for the 82nd Airborne Museum:

There is email and telephone contact information here for both the
Curator (John Aarsen) and the Collections Manager (Mary Dennings).

I have a feeling they would love to hear from you with your questions
about the fateful events that occurred November 2-3, 1959.

Let me know if I can help you further on this.


P.S.  There is also a link here:

to information on the Pittsylvania County Historical County, where
Danville is located.  They seem mostly focused on 18th and 19th
century history, but still -- they may be a resource.  You may want to
contact them to see if they can tell you anything more about the
invasion of Danville.

Request for Answer Clarification by maggie22043-ga on 03 Jun 2004 10:42 PDT
Dear Pafalafa

   Great info on the military angle.  I may be moving to NC so a visit
to Ft. Bragg and the museum would be in order.

   I was going to give you a long explanation of my interest in Dragon
Head before I realized that my correspondence is going out on the Web
for anyone to read.  Suffice to say, I was a small but observant child
when Aziz and his troops marched into town.  Mainly interested in
finding out how much of my memory of the event was true and how much
imagination.  I'm also thinking of using Dragon Head as background for
a story I have in mind to write about WWII vets.

    Thanks again for your help.

Clarification of Answer by pafalafa-ga on 03 Jun 2004 11:11 PDT

Thanks for the kind words, as well as for the bit of the story behind
your question.  It must have been quite a sight for a small kid to

Have fun exploring this, and let us know if we can be of further assistance.

maggie22043-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Great research and very thorough response to my question.  Provided
more information than I expected and gave me new avenues to explore
for additional source work.

There are no comments at this time.

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